Saturday, 9 May 2009

Farmland Bird Survey 2005


My second year of volunteering for this took me a few miles north-west of Dundee, near to Piperdam Loch, which inevitably added an osprey to the species list. I visited the farm in May, June and July as the birds settled and the crops grew. The fields were a stronghold for the Red List species of yellowhammer and skylark and even had a reed bunting and linnet territory apiece. I logged grey partridges but couldn't find any breeding evidence. Likewise song thrush and starling.

Each survey took all morning and I walked the edge of every field in the study, which thankfully was not the entire farm. Even so, it was an interesting application of the Travelling Salesman problem, which took me back to my year of study for an artificial intelligence Masters. I could have written a genetic algorithm to solve it!

I was not much concerned with efficiency though, just enjoying myself, and it was a fine thing to be swishing through oil seed rape and barley of an Angus morning. I logged every bird seen, with direction of travel and behaviour. Someone back in the RSPB office would then interpret this as a breeding individual or not. All simple enough for my part and value added to a birdwatching trip.

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